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'Dogtown' skateboarding rebel Jay Adams dies at 53

Skateboarding Legend Jay Adams Dies


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jay Adams, the colorful rebel who helped transform skateboarding from a simple street pastime into one of the world's most spectacular sports with hair-raising stunts and an outsized personality to match, has died at age 53.

Adams died of a heart attack Thursday during a surfing vacation in Mexico with his wife and friends, his manager, Susan Ferris said Friday.

With his flowing, sun-bleached hair, explosive skating style and ebullient personality, Adams became one of the sport's most iconic figures during the years it moved from empty backyard swimming pools to international competition.

"He was like the original viral spore that created skateboarding," fellow skateboarder and documentary filmmaker Stacy Peralta told The Associated Press on Friday. "He was it."

But at the height of his fame in the early 1980s, Adams was convicted of felony assault, launching a string of prison stints over the next 24 years.

The member of the Skateboarding Hall of Fame, who had proudly been clean and sober for the past several years, blamed his troubles in part on the sport's early years, when seemingly any outrageous behavior was tolerated.

"We were wild and acting crazy and not being very positive role models," he told The New York Times shortly after being released from prison for the last time in 2008.

He had rocketed to fame while still a teenager as a founding member of the Zephyr Skate Team, a group of surfers turned skateboarders who came together in a rundown, dicey neighborhood known as Dogtown that straddles Los Angeles' Venice Beach and the city of Santa Monica.

Peralta, another member, would memorialize the group in his 2001 documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys."

"Watching him when he was 14, 15, 16 was pure entertainment," the filmmaker recalled Friday. "It was like watching energy itself evolve. You never knew what he was going to do, and no matter how great he was at something, he never repeated it."

Although he wasn't technically the best skater out there, Peralta said, Adams' influence on the sport was as great as that of X Games gold medalist Tony Hawk.

Adams never became quite the household name Hawk is, perhaps in part because of his repeated brushes with the law.

When "Dogtown and Z Boys" premiered in 2001, he was in jail again, this time doing time on a drug charge.

About the time the 2005 feature film "Lords of Dogtown" would hit theaters, Adams, who was played by actor Emile Hirsch, was being busted for drugs again.

Upon his release, he vowed to stay out of trouble - and he did.

Peralta said he last saw Adams at a dinner gathering about six weeks ago.

"He was the first person to show up at the dinner table, which was remarkable, and he was drinking hot tea, which was even more remarkable," he said. "He had really turned a corner."

Adams is survived by his wife, Tracy, and two children.

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Bubbadoin' August 16 2014 at 9:47 AM

These comments are horrible. Gang affiliated criminal thugs? Pro skateboarder not a real job? What is wrong with you people? So quick to judge someone with a past and by the way he looks. Why don't you all go look into what Jay Adams really lived for and what he brought into the sport. I'm sure you wouldn't have the same attitude if he played football , basketball or baseball since you probably don't consider skateboarding a real sport. My middle finger salutes you all! So go ahead with your replies.

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2 replies
bajalou2u Bubbadoin' August 16 2014 at 10:26 AM


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Pope John Bubbadoin' August 16 2014 at 11:25 AM

Outside of Kalifornia, who gives a rat's butt about "pro" skateboards? This guy just never grew up.

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2 replies
Bubbadoin' Pope John August 16 2014 at 11:48 AM

Whatever dude. Just stay in the four corners of your own little world. Why do you think your opinion even matters if you don't know anything about him?

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katyclaire Pope John August 16 2014 at 4:13 PM

California doesn't care that you don't care. We're good, thanks.

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rnsreports August 16 2014 at 2:30 AM

I've never heard of him before. The guy had an interesting face and certainly projects a sense of self-assurance in this photo. But am I the only one out here who thinks getting tattoos on your face is sort of creepy?

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3 replies
hunter0719 August 16 2014 at 9:18 AM

Turned a new life after getting out of prison? Look at the photo... he and his cronie are displaying gang signs with their hands. Affiliating with like minded criminals and thugs never left his mentality before he croaked.

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mrscrutty August 16 2014 at 11:16 AM

For those of you who don't know who Jay Adams is, you should really check out the Dogtown documentary. I found it fascinating. Those guys and girls turned skating boarding on it's head. So much of what we consider "skateboarding" now, was a direct result of what they were doing back then.

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tatersalad03 August 16 2014 at 3:56 AM

Too bad at 53 he hadn't found a "real" job.

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sean0007 August 15 2014 at 10:24 PM

yeah coke will do that to you ...

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Chris August 16 2014 at 8:50 AM

Skateboarding has been responsible for sending more kids to the emergency room than any other past time.
There's a reason slackers are drawn to skateboarding.

Some legacy Jay.

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2 replies
redwg83hd Chris August 16 2014 at 11:45 AM

You're ignorant

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gchisholm5 Chris August 16 2014 at 9:38 PM

You are one ignorant ****

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chrisf0047 August 16 2014 at 12:12 AM

Thought those were prison tats. Yet another "celebrity/athlete" that screws his life up and then in relative "old age" comes around to the conclusion that it wasn't such a good idea to be a scumbag troublemaker. This time the grim reaper stepped in. Problem solved.

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2 replies
Dave chrisf0047 August 16 2014 at 1:03 AM

Jay Adams was a celebrity in the skating world, and one of the best, also he was a milionare. RIP Jay.

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hipcat442 chrisf0047 August 16 2014 at 3:04 PM

What does your comment my comment have to do with his death. Nothing ! Yeah lots of people get into trouble more than once but pull it together. Neck tattoos or not. Prison time or not Jay was still a good human being that should not be bashed after his death. You probably never met the guy. I did and he was a genuine individual. RIP Jay You will be missed !

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steel_nuts August 16 2014 at 12:16 PM

Died in mexico.......had that happend in the usa he would have lived.
One more reason NOT TO GO TO MEXACO

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Hello Bill August 16 2014 at 1:05 PM

Skateboard??? Grow the F up!!!!!

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